Editors love nothing more than getting a reaction--any reaction--to the articles they run, but I have to say I'm a little perplexed by many of the letters that continue to flow in about our September cover story, " Basic Instincts," about the entrepreneurial knack of Eyal Balle, the founder of Rebels. It's not the criticism that bothers me; criticism is healthy. It's not even the level of controversy; the article raised issues about business ethics that deserve to be discussed. It's the tone of absolute moral certitude in so many of the letters.
I'm reminded of something that happened one Sunday morning several years ago as I was sitting in church with my three daughters. The priest was giving a sermon on abortion. Suddenly, my oldest daughter, Lexy, got up and walked out. While she didn't say a word, it was clear that she had left in response to the sermon.
After mass, I told her I didn't know she disagreed so strongly with the church's position on abortion. That wasn't it, she said. What she objected to was the priest's repeated assertion that "abortion is really a very simple moral matter"--a sentiment that she felt could be uttered with conviction only by a white male Catholic priest in his sixties. "For any thoughtful adult living in the 1990s," she said, "abortion may be a lot of things, but the one thing it isn't is simple."
To this day, I'm still embarrassed--not that my daughter walked out of church but that I didn't walk out with her.
Leadership and Change. Many people will read this month's feature by Jay Finegan as an article about leadership. I myself think of it as an article about helping people cope with change. So much of the advice we get about managing change reads like bad advertising copy: "Eat change for breakfast." "Work smarter, not harder." "Get fast, or get dead." None of it is very useful when you feel as if you're in a "meat grinder," to quote one of the people in Finegan's story. Here, at last, is a company that has figured out how to help people in an organization adapt individually and collectively to an environment in which there's too much coming at you all the time. Maybe that's what leadership is all about.
Prima Donna? What Prima Donna?
I hope no one thinks this month's feature on managing prima donnas, by Peter Carbonara, was inspired by the challenges of running a magazine. Believe me, editors and writers are real team players--assuming, of course, you're playing solitaire. (Just kidding.) As for the founders of businesses, I have to admit we've run into a few who might qualify as prima donnas, which raises an interesting question: How do you manage a prima donna when the prima donna is the boss? But that's a story for another issue.
Never, Never, Never Give Up
Norm Brodsky, our intrepid Street Smarts columnist, informs us that he is shocked to learn we ran an article in our January 1996 issue by some other guy using his name. In the article, the bogus Brodsky challenged Jack Stack's rosy forecast for 1996 and said we were actually heading "for a period of sluggishness and deflation." The turn, he predicted, would come no later than the end of 1996 and would start with a big drop in the stock market.
Although he admits to staying in cash for the entire year, the real Brodsky asks, "Do you really think I would have made such a prediction? Come on, guys, you know me." But just to make sure there are no hard feelings, he says he's sending Stack some flowers...cactus flowers.